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The onward march of Obama
The election of President Barack Obama for a second term is an indication that large and ethnically diverse elements of the electorate in the United States felt comfortable enough with the achievements of his presidency not to abandon him to the ignominy of being a one-term president.
Mr Obama appealed across the board to the people who will increasingly be the new face of the United States: women, those of Hispanic origin and, of course, African-Americans. In fact, his difficulty in retaining the presidency lay precisely with those who have traditionally called the tune in American presidential elections: middle-class white men.
Their ascendancy may have diminished, but they are still key players, and in this election much of their support went to Mr Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney. Indeed, had the Republican party presented a more moderate and more broadly appealing candidate, Mr Obama might not have been celebrating on Tuesday night.
As it was, even some of those who welcomed his win were moved to comment on the divided state of American society. Nevertheless, Mr Obama’s win was much less narrow than predicted, in spite of the fact that the US economy remains in a difficult situation.
This was a long and hard-fought fight in which victory was by no means certain. No one can doubt the rigour of a US election campaign; candidates are put under microscopic investigation and tremendous pressure. The stakes are huge. But at the end of it all, President Obama’s victory speech was not about triumphalism by the Democratic Party or self-adulation, but about what it means to be American in 2012.
In a bold, upbeat appeal, Mr Obama told his fellow Americans of his faith in what he called “the promise of our founding.” That, he said, was “the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight.” This truly inclusive statement—the truth of which Mr Obama lived throughout his first presidency—was delivered with magnanimity.
He recognised that his opponent is representative of millions of Americans who voted against him, and indicated that he had listened to those who had told him some home truths about his own leadership and programmes. Moreover, President Obama acknowledged anew the difficulty of managing a democracy in which there are many other views than his.
In this respect, he must also face the reality of a Republican-controlled Congress which he cannot wish away; he must pursue his policies and be prepared to argue his case before the Congress. But Mr Obama appealed to his countrymen at a higher level, reminding them, in stirring words that are worth repeating, of:
“The belief that our destiny is shared, that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism.”
In defeat, Governor Romney pledged his support and prayers for the President chosen by the nation in a system that all have agreed with. The vision and the values that President Obama offered to Americans on Tuesday night are equally applicable and admirable elsewhere. The US exerts a huge influence on the life of this country—not always a benign one. But T&T would do well in this instance to follow the lead of its larger neighbour to the north.